Losing sight of shore

Today marks the start of the 2018 Talisker Atlantic Challenge, the World’s Toughest Row from La Gomera in the Canary Islands to Antigua in the Caribbean.

All 28 teams have been in the harbor for weeks where they’ve tested, packed, and reinforced the equipment that will keep them safe as they cross the Atlantic Ocean. Terence attended the launch two years ago, but this year he and the rest of our team watch from afar – and even while viewing online, it’s clear how much work goes into rowing the Atlantic. Whether as a solo rower or a team of 4, it takes a village to reach the start.

The 2018 teams are rowing for great causes. Kelda Wood for example is a solo rower raising funds for her charity that helps people like her who have had life-changing injuries from outdoor adventures. Her charity and this Atlantic row helps people with differing abilities stop saying ‘I can’t’, and start saying ‘how can I?’ She aims to raise £50,000 to support her cause.

Others are rowing for the environment, like the trio of British rowers ‘Status Row’ who are supporting Marine Conservation Society. Like most ocean rowers, this team has no prior rowing experience but they’ve trained well and deeply believe that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. And that’s just what it takes.

We’ve also been inspired by Team Antigua Island Girls, a team of four women who will be the first ever all-black team to cross the Atlantic Ocean. They’re raising funds for Cottage of Hope who house and support young women and girls who suffered abuse.

For weeks there’s been a festive feeling in La Gomera, where teams have hurried to and fro on final preparations while also enjoying the global village atmosphere. But today the mood suddenly changes. As rowers lose sight of shore and row into the distance, the reality of the task falls upon them: they are finally, after years of preparation, alone. And there is only one way forward: to row, day and night, until they cross the Atlantic Ocean.

Best of luck to those who are leaving shore today. We will be watching you on the YB Tracker. (Readers: download YB now! It’s an app showing locations for every team as they cross.)

La Gomera, we can’t wait to see you next year. 

TED-style talk now live!

Ever wondered what goes through the mind of an endurance athlete?

How you keep going in the face of suffering?

Turns out there are certain techniques that endurance athletes use – and mastering these same techniques can help you in your life too.

I recently had the pleasure to share some of these insights gained over 10 years as an endurance athlete with my colleagues.

Deloitte’s Denver Office invited me to speak at the DeloitteID speaker series, a nationally coordinated TED-style event designed to inspire, innovate and impact. I’m excited to share the talk with you now.

With gratitude,
Terence

 

 

Thankful for storms

It’s Thanksgiving! A time for thanks – and hard truths.

Gratitude is not just being thankful for what’s good or easy; for me, gratitude is even more powerful when we can cultivate it for things that challenge us.

So on this day, I’d like to share a few things I’m grateful for. Some are gifts that overfill my cup. Others are tremors that shake me and cause my cup to spill. All of them help make me who I am. They remind me it’s not a question of the cup half full or half empty – it’s gratitude that there’s a cup at all. Without further adieu:

  • I’m thankful for my amazing team of UWC alumni who are working to make the United World Challenge a reality.
  • I’m thankful for you, the supporters and champions of the UWC Challenge.
  • I’m thankful for Atlantic Campaigns who organize the Atlantic Challenge race, a unique global platform to share UWC’s story and realize my dream of rowing an ocean.
  • I’m thankful for SpinDrift Rowing for designing an ocean rowing boat that’s stable and fast; and I’m grateful for all their patience and help with this campaign.
  • I’m thankful for all the past ocean rowers who provide invaluable advice; I’m standing on the shoulders of giants.
  • I’m thankful for philanthropist Shelby Davis for awarding me with my UWC scholarship in 2004 and providing so much support for the UWC movement.
  • I’m thankful for UWC of the Adriatic for showing me the world, taking me from a tiny town in mountains of New York to a global diverse village, setting me on course to make the most of this one dear life.
  • I’m thankful that before UWC, I spent a great deal of time alone as a kid, because it taught me independence and that I can be my own best company.
  • I’m thankful for having experienced depression at several times in my life, because it’s taught me to believe in the power to heal, given me inspiration to make my days count, and helped me empathize with others.
  • I’m thankful for strained relationships that challenge me, for they shine light on my own shortcomings and where I can grow.
  • I’m thankful for my sleepless nights, because when I toss and turn in bed, I can see with clarity the things I must address or accept in my life.
  • I’m thankful for the challenges in preparing this row, because when I get to the start line in La Gomera in December 2019, I will feel stronger than ever, having overcome so much to get there!

Finally, I’m grateful for UWC for showing me the difference between government and people – between culture and tradition. Appreciating this difference is one reason I’ve learned to see Thanksgiving as an opportunity.  An opportunity to honor the practice of being grateful (culture) while not honoring the false narrative of where the holiday came from (tradition: retelling a myth invented by government to support a nationalist agenda).

This is just the start of the list. But I’m also thankful for the opportunity to get off my computer! So for now, will stop here.

With gratitude,
Terence

Alumni in the Spotlight – Gintarė Eidimtaitė

For our next installment of Alumni in the Spotlight we have the incomparable Gintarė Eidmtaitė. Gintarė attended UWC Adriatic in Italy from 2004-2006. Originally from Lithuania, she is now based in Geneva, Switzerland where she works as a humanitarian affairs officer for the UN. Read on to find out how the UWC experience helps amazing people like Gintarė reach their potential and change the world.

What made you want to go to UWC in the first place?

I was itching to discover the world and surround myself by idealistic nerds like me. One day, I saw an ad calling for applications in a newspaper, googled the school and read up on UWC values… I remember being blown away, it really sounded like a place for me.

Before I arrived at UWC I was just a little bit scared of the unknown, though supremely excited about learning Italian and drinking cappuccinos every day.

Was there anything that you got out of your experience at UWC that you didn’t expect to?

My UWC experience both validated and made me question my identity, values and outlook to the world. But, above all, it gave me a sense of possibility: experiences, opportunities and encounters I hadn’t dreamed of were suddenly right in front of me.

How do you think your life would be different if you didn’t go to UWC?

I probably would not have ended up with a career in the service of others. For years when working for NGOs, my dad kept asking me when I was going to get a “real job”. Also, many of my closest, most cherished friends would not be in my life.

How has your time at UWC directly affected your life today?

Several years after graduation, I helped a very bright and talented young woman in South Sudan get into another UWC school. She is still in my life, and is now part of our family. The experience of helping someone navigate the shocks of moving halfway across the world at a very vulnerable time of their life was transformative for me. Then seeing her flourish once again reignited my belief in the potential and awesomeness of humans.

Who is a person you met at UWC who you find most inspiring?

My roommate Manel from Algeria who arrived at the college without English, excelled at school and then university and is now being the coolest mom to the wonderful Sophia. My other roommate Jessica, who is perhaps the most stubbornly just person I have ever met in my life and is now trying to figure out how currents work so we can save the oceans. My history teacher Eunice who forever changed the way I look at the world and understand identity. And, of course, Tez!

What does UWC’s mission mean to you? How do you choose to live the UWC values?

The sense of purpose and idealism I acquired at UWC is still very much within me. At home and at work, I strive to always challenge myself, to lead by example, to do everything with integrity and compassion. In a job where fatigue sometimes seems like the only way to remain sane, I feel like at UWC I built a base which keeps me firm and focused on why I do what I do.

What’s your job/vocation/career?

I’m a humanitarian affairs officer at the United Nations working on emergency preparedness and response in the Americas region. In particular, I manage the system where the best of the UN and of national disaster managers come together, are trained in the same methodology and then deploy to countries affected by earthquakes, floods, cyclones or other emergencies, as well as on search and rescue methodologies and capacity. I also deploy to emergencies to support humanitarian coordination. This year, I was in Afghanistan working on a drought affecting over 2 million people.

What does the UWC Challenge mean to you?

For one, it’s an awe-inspiring feat to even attempt it. I find it incredible that Tez is giving back in such an enormous way. UWC challenge will get more kids from across the world live a transformational experience, embark on a new life journey and create a more peaceful and sustainable world.

Gintarė in her element, working in the field.

Alumni in the Spotlight – Elysia Glover

The United World Challenge is raising money for scholarships to attend UWCs. Attending a UWC can change the course of a life. We’re presenting a series; Alumni in the Spotlight – to show the transformative effect a globally focused education can have.

Elysia Glover

UWCSEA 2004-2006

What made you want to go to UWC in the first place?

I grew up in a home where public radio was always on and books were everywhere and I really loved learning. In high school my mom told me I should check out Pearson College as friends of ours were also applying and I remember sitting in our computer lab at school looking through the websites of IB schools around the world and thinking “I could do that”. I didn’t have a passport but it just seemed like the right thing to do for me.

Was there anything that you got out of your experience at UWC that you didn’t expect to?

I did not expect to confront myself, my anger, my strength and my beauty, to the extent that I did. My time in the UWC community held a powerful mirror up to all of that and I am grateful for it.

How do you think your life would be different if you didn’t go to UWC?

I grew up in a working class family who experienced housing insecurity and other challenges. UWC opened up a literal world of opportunity I would not have had otherwise. From completing an IB diploma, to training as an ESL teacher, to developing community legal education in Cambodia, to accessing a funded opportunity to attend college in the US, every major development in my work and learning life since attending UWCSEA can be traced back to that initial chance to attend a UWC.

More generally, had I not gone to UWC, I would not have so quickly developed the global perspective that informs my approach now, nor have been pushed to ground that perspective in efforts that have local impact in the way UWC pushed us to do.

What’s your job/vocation/career?

I am currently the Executive Director of Community Micro Lending, a non-profit society offering financial literacy and business training to communities facing barriers to economic independence. I just ran (and won) a municipal election campaign in B.C, Canada. I also produce a youth spoken word festival and coordinate a poets in schools program. Before this I was the Executive Director to the leader of the Green Party of Canada.

What advice would you give to your pre-UWC self?

You have no idea what you’re getting into, you will be your biggest challenge, but this will be the best thing you ever said yes to.

What does the UWC Challenge mean to you?

Its Terrence’s way of using the skills, capacity and courage he has to raise awareness of, and funds for, a life changing opportunity. (Just don’t die, Tez.)

Elysia doing what she does best – facilitating community workshops, with a smile on her dial

Inside the Endurance Athlete’s Mind

Ever wonder how endurance athletes just keep going? Curious what techniques we use to stay focused, positive, and making progress?

Spoiler: the secret sauce isn’t muscle or fitness. In fact, the longer the challenge, the more important are your attitude, emotional awareness, and mental resilience.

I’ve been invited to give a TED-style talk this coming week on how I’ve learned to cultivate these skills over ten years as an endurance athlete.

Titled Moving through Pain: Mental Techniques to Excel in Sport and Life, the talk introduces three techniques I’m using to prepare for the UWC Challenge – techniques you can use to achieve your own goals, too.

Stay tuned for the recording! In the meantime, you can get a preview from the storyboard.

-Terence

~~

What you see below: Rather than memorize the talk, I sketched images of each building block. I use the note cards to recall each image, see its place in the story arc, and then speak naturally and improvise about that moment. Public speaking trick!

Full storyboard (reads left-to-right starting at the top row)
The Power to Choose (featured in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)
Mantras (every warrior runs with a slogan)
Did you know, more people have been to space than rowed the Atlantic?
The miles ticked along… 110, 120, 130

Nothing can prepare you to row an ocean – but…

But you STILL have to prepare!

And preparation takes time. That’s why with 417 days before the start of the 2019 Atlantic Challenge, today I began training with the elite rowing coach, Lauren Rubini of CrossFit Roots.

In our first hour, Lauren corrected two movements in my stroke. This feedback is critical to become as efficient as possible, since during the race, I’ll row 2 marathons a day for 2 months.

I’ll work with Lauren each Saturday to improve my technique and will also participate in CrossFit Roots’ annual 100km Erg Challenge from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day.

This week is a landmark for second reason: It’s exactly two years since I attended the Ocean Film Festival in London, where Sarah Outen and Justine Curgenven’s film “Kayaking the Aleutians” inspired me to imagine myself rowing an ocean.

Sarah made a small, passing comment that seized my attention. She explained that the rowboat she used on the Indian, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans would self-right if capsized, but kayaks do not. I think she meant to imply that kayaking the Aleutians was insanely difficult – but with some optimistic zeal, I interpreted her statement to mean that ocean rowing is something a novice can learn to do. Turns out, I was right.

That’s the magical paradox of ocean rowing: nothing can prepare you for the challenge – it’s too unique – which means there’s nothing holding you back but yourself.

Fast forward two years, and here we are: growing the United World Challenge. Learning to prepare for an experience that’s almost impossible to comprehend before doing it. Preparing as best I can, one day at a time.


Trailer of the film that inspired the United World Challenge

Opening Entry for UWC Day

Ahoy, and welcome to the Opening Entry in the Captain’s Log.

Why start today? Because it’s UWC Day, the International Day of Peace – a day to inspire action.

That’s why I organized a trash cleanup in Denver, and together with fellow UWC alumni from Oman and Canada picked up rubbish from the banks of the Platte River. Part of the UWC Day of Service, this small gesture sits within a larger global movement of people taking action.

You don’t have to row an ocean or raise a scholarship to improve the world. What action would you take in your own community?

Expect more posts in the coming weeks sharing “behind the scenes” views of the UWC Challenge. Until then, feel free to say sign the Captain’s Log below.

Wishing you smooth seas,

Terence